Garden centre boss does U-turn over development

Julia Brown and Andrew Vermes are protesting about plans for a caravan park next to Southdowns Nurseries
Julia Brown and Andrew Vermes are protesting about plans for a caravan park next to Southdowns Nurseries

A Hassocks garden centre owner who objected to plans for holiday lodges and three football pitches two years ago has submitted his own plans for another scheme on the land.

Two years ago, Jonathan Tate, who owns South Downs Garden Centre off Brighton Road, wrote a strong letter of objection to a plan for 23 holiday lodges on land backing on to Hassocks Football Club, citing traffic, flood risk, nuisance and “wholly inappropriate” commercial development in the countryside.

He added in his objection letter dated May 22, 2010: “...there are already an adequate number of football pitches in Hassocks.”

In a separate letter of objection, Mr Tate’s own Board of Directors described the land as “an important rural break around Hassocks that should be protected”.

Since then, Mr Tate has acquired the land and submitted plans for an educational barn, nine holiday lets or ‘Eco-lodges’ and three football pitches, one adult size, a junior size and a mini pitch.

Mr Tate wants to expand a heritage centre, which is currently a display area in his garden centre showing mainly agricultural machinery and tools, into a ‘Heritage Educational Barn’ on the site where craft skills could be taught. The holiday cabins would help to finance the scheme.

His application states: “The existing heritage centre has had huge input from the local community” and the barn proposal “has been met with great enthusiasm”.

However, Hassocks Parish Council suggests quite the opposite, stating in its objections: “The heritage centre in the South Downs Garden Centre does not appear to be much used so there is no proven need to expand the facility.”

The council points out that a large, under-used camping and caravan park already exists at Lodge Lane, Keymer and adds: “There is little evidence of a local need” for additional football pitches because Hassocks Football Club “attracts a number of visitors from outside the village rather than local residents”.

The council concludes: “The Parish Council concurs with all the objections Mr Tate had to the earlier application, which are applicable to the current application.”

The site, with flooding problems, is inside the National Park and Mr Tate’s plan will be determined by the National Park Authority in December.

A resident living across the road from the garden centre, Andrew Vermes, claimed: “We don’t need a new heritage centre, the one in the garden centre is just used to signpost the cafe next door. This kind of development is inappropriate in a National Park.”

Nearby resident, Julia Brown, added: “I wasn’t notified in writing about the plans. This is lovely greenfield space and I would be able to see the development from my windows.”

Defending his apparent U-turn, Mr Tate said: “I would be the first to agree that previous proposals by developers to build a high intensity holiday caravan park in the location were entirely inappropriate.

“We are very excited, however, that the aims and objectives of the new South Downs National Park Authority give support to low impact community based projects such as ours that will bring many benefits both to the National Park and to the local community.”

The planning reference is: SDNP/12/02530/FUL

The deadline for comments is, ideally, by the end of tomorrow, November 29. Comments, with the planning reference clearly shown should be emailed to:

You can view the plans on the South Downs National Park Authority website:

If you click on ‘planning’ on the top bar you can type in the planning reference to bring up the relevant documents.

Hassocks Parish Council has asked for the Park Authority to determine the plans.